Radio Host Shares Memories of Broadcasting During Michigan Blizzard of ’78
A retired broadcaster shares his memories of trudging through the Blizzard of '78 to keep the community informed during the winter weather emergency.
Dave Eddy, known to many as the 'Morning Mayor', shared his experience of driving in the Blizzard of 1978 to get to work. He was not a firefighter or a doctor, but the host of the WBCK Morning Show in Battle Creek.
While radio broadcaster is not the first group of people you would think of as working on the frontlines, they are a group that does not have 'snow days'. Especially when the state of Michigan came to a screeching halt as cities were buried under record-setting snowfall.
Snow began falling on January 25, 1978, and continued through January 27 with winds brutally whipping snow into drifts that buried vehicles and reached the top of homes. When all was said and done, Battle Creek was buried under more than 23 inches of snow and Kalamazoo under 22 inches of snow.
Dave said he drove a used Jeep pickup with 4-wheel drive to the studios that morning and encountered many drifts he never thought he'd be able to drive through and hills so slick that he barely made it up. But he kept going and somehow made it to the studios located south of Battle Creek.
Once there, the calls began. Schools, businesses, churches, government offices. You name it and it was likely closed. A true state of emergency and people were turning on their radios to hear the latest news.
Dave, and the then news director, Tom McHale, worked tirelessly for those days answering phones, compiling information coming in, then relaying it over the air. All while many of their coworkers were unable to make it to the studios.
Dave said some of the calls coming in were for people needing things. Bread, milk, and all the other staples we still try to keep on hand. When he would get done with an extra-long shift, he'd be picking up and delivering needed items when he could.
Dave was fortunate enough to have a friend near the studio to stay with. At least one of his coworkers slept on a table at the radio station. Dave says that weather predictions weren't what they are today. Everyone knew a storm was coming but they had no idea just how bad it would be.
The storm brought two competitors together, Dave said he got a lot of information from employees with the Battle Creek Enquirer who faced their own challenges delivering papers due to the storm.
The most extensive and very nearly the most severe blizzard in Michigan history raged throughout Thursday, January 26, 1978, and into part of Friday, January 27. About 20 people died as a direct or indirect result of the storm, most due to heart attacks or traffic accidents. At least one person died of exposure in a stranded automobile. Many were hospitalized for exposure, mostly from homes that lost power and heat. About 100,000 cars were abandoned on Michigan highways, most of them in the southeast part of the state.
The above is the darker side of winter. Below you will be reminded of the beauty that can be found despite the bitter cold. Have you ever seen blue ice or the northern lights? Keep scrolling...